Arts and Entertainment

Stylized study in color, light

The visitor to Ray Styles’ studio might be attracted to the bright colors of his art supplies, as well as to his work.

The hundreds of sticks of compressed pigment in neat rows on a studio table are this self-styled Impressionist’s medium for the luminous pastel landscapes on view at Bistro Pleasant Beach.

“I paint to see better,” Styles said. “My eyes see more than the casual observer because I focus on the interaction of color and light.”

Styles’ 8-by-10 inch pastels record such local scenes as Eagle Harbor and Gazzam Lake, with occasional forays to Quilcene.

Unlike artists who produce pleasantly bland landscapes under a diffuse contemporary umbrella called “Impressionism,” Styles returns to the root definition, attempting, with the objective eye of the scientist, to record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and color.

“So many people don’t even see the pink in the sky,” Styles said. “and in shadows there is blue and purple – not just green. Warm areas in sunlight and cool areas in shade need to include warmth and coolness in the painting.”

Styles traces his lineage to late 19th century France through his teacher Lois Griffel, head of the Cape Cod School of Art. The school was founded in 1899 by American Impressionist Charles Hawthorne after studies with Monet.

French Impressionists Pissaro, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne and Morisot broke away from neo-classical realism. Widely regarded as the first of the “moderns,” they attempted to capture the light conditions of the moment, using luminous color.

Although indebted to these masters, Styles has a tool 19th century Impressionists did not: the computer.

Styles makes digital paintings to compose scenes and test-run colors.

“I’m trying to accurately portray color and light,” Styles said. “The computer helps by allowing me to rapidly change value and color.”

The computer was the main tool for Styles until recently; he retired from running his own technical writing business doing work for such firms as Microsoft and Adobe.

“For the first half of my life, I used my left brain, and now, for the second half, I would rather use the right half,” Styles said.

He notes, however, that he will call on the business skills he has refined to help sell his art.

“But,” Styles said, “I don’t have to survive on it yet.”

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Ray Styles’ pastel paintings of local landscapes are on view through Feb. 7 at Bistro Pleasant Beach. Call 842-4347.

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